Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hopeless Heathrow

I commented previously on the hopelessness of London's major airports and Heathrow in particular.

The airport operator, BAA, and its largest tenant, British Airways, have been responding to criticism with what amounts to "Terminal 5 will fix it."

So, all well and good because Terminal 5 opened today...and drum roll please maestro... the end of the day passengers were being told not to check any baggage.

Looks like you don't get much for £4.3 billion these days.

Work? You wanted it to work guv? Well why didn't you bleedin well say so?

But the Queen was there to open it, so that's OK isn't it?

I know the Brits can be a bit tradition bound, but here's a hint for them - less ceremony, more testing!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fat skis and Spring slush

I took my fat skis out today thinking they might be fun in the Spring slush. The verdict? Guilty!

Here's today's track.

I tried Pioneer Ridge today for the first time (other than on a powder day) in two seasons. The run below the lift was particularly good.

Of course I did at least one of my favourite tree runs as well, in this case Shadows/Lights Out, as well as Kuus' Cruise (Priest Creek lift line).

Finally home via my favourite route, which I've described before but not illustrated like this, namely Oops and Vertigo.


Vertical ft: 13,208
Maximum speed: 33.7 mph
Distance skied: 10.62 miles
Time skiing: 51:36
Time stopped: 20:33 (no lift lines at all, just breathing)
Time riding lifts: 54:30

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring, sort of

Spring continues to come slowly this year with the temperatures still below 40F (compared to the 50s this time last year). That means the snow on the upper mountain remains buttery and the snow on the lower mountain is soft but not slushy.

Here's today's track.

Today I skied with Jack, a lawyer from Silicon Valley.

And now for the stats:

Vertical ft: 10,744
Maximum speed: 44.4 mph
Distance skied: 9.42 miles
Time skiing: 56:50
Time stopped: 25:20 (no lines today)
Time riding lifts: 1:30:46

Friday, March 21, 2008

Feeling young

When I saw the snow report this morning - four inches - I thought big deal (although it is enough to break the record!) and almost didn't go out today. Which would have been bad. Really bad. Because I had an awesome day skiing.

I met a guy called Seth this morning who is nineteen years old, very fit and has been skiing since he was three and we had a great time skiing together. Definitely a cheaper way for a guy my age (45 next month) to feel young than buying a red sports car.

Anyway, here's the map of what I skied today exported from my GPS unit to Google Maps.

Let's use Google Earth to zoom in on the best bits.

We began with the classic Steamboat tree runs - Shadows, Lights Out, Twilight and Closet.

Then we hit the trees off to skiers' left of Sunnyside. There's a steep glade hidden in there with some very large rocks (circled in the image below - the rocks are the white shapes) which provide some great drop offs when the snow is deep like it is this year. As a bonus there were plenty of fresh lines in there too.

Also good after that were the trees between Vagabond and Rudi's Run. For some reason I'd skied the lower half of this before but only the top half for the first time last Friday. But I'll be skiing this a whole lot more in the future. And the (large) bumps of White Out were pretty good too.

Now for the stats:

Vertical ft: 16,530
Maximum speed: 39.3 mph
Distance skied: 14.4 miles
Time skiing: 1:22:15
Time stopped: 1:17:43 (mostly the stop for lunch - there weren't any real lift lines today)
Time riding lifts: 1:30:10

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Normally this time of year it's warm and sunny meaning Spring skiing-crusty in the morning, perfect in the middle of the day and slushy in the afternoon and don't forget your sunscreen.

Not today. It was cold, foggy and windy on the mountain. And snowing. So maybe the snow gods have one more powder day left for us. The last powder-ish day last year was March 29 so it's still quite possible.

I took my GPS unit out again today but somehow half way through the pause button got pushed so the data is incomplete. I'm also having trouble getting the heart rate monitor to work consistently. So I'm treating the rest of the season as a test run for next year.

Best run of the day was a freshly groomed Rolex. Worst run was probably Two O'clock where the snow was blowing so hard in my face my lips and teeth felt frozen.

But at least the bad weather keeps the tourists inside so I didn't have to worry to much about one of them running in to me in the fog! And hey, it's still skiing and I had fun carving some beautiful GS turns and skiing some bumps...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

GPS skiing

I recently acquired a sports GPS watch and I tested it out for the first time today.

Here's my route exported to Google Maps.

And even better, to Google Earth.

And some key statistics produced by the unit:

Vertical ft: 12,762
Maximum speed: 40.8 mph (much faster than I thought I was skiing)
Distance skied: 10.4 miles (much further than I would have guessed)
Time skiing: 49:21
Time stopped: 24:52 (it's Spring Break so there were some lift queues)
Time riding lifts: 1:04:11

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wow. Pow. Pow Wow. Pow Pow Pow!

Yes I seem to have lost the power of articulate speech. At least temporarily. You see today was the end of my medical layoff from skiing for a month and I got incredibly lucky because it was a powder day - in mid-March! So I'm close to speechless.

The report said seven inches of new snow overnight, but I didn't get out early like I usually do since I only got in from my trip to New Zealand at 11 pm last night after 30 hours of travel. For some reason I had this strange desire to sleep this morning.

But there were still plenty of stashes left in the trees even around midday when I got going. I started out with Shadows/Lights Out and Twilight and then headed to the trees to skiers left of Sunnyside where the powder was deep, soft and largely untracked. So good I got stuck in a loop for a while just doing it again and again.

I also found great stashes in the trees off the sides of Norther, BC Liftline, Vagabond and well, everywhere. Even between the zig-zags of Why Not to the right of Vagabond where the snow is now deep enough to cover up most of the scrubby stuff that usually makes this unskiable. And to finish everything off, my favourite route home - Oops and Vertigo. A far better day than I expected this time of year.

With today's fall we're now within a few inches of the all time record of 447.5 inches set in 1996-97. So soon I'll be able to brag about living and skiing in Steamboat during the biggest season ever...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Flying with the PM

I just arrived in Wellington, New Zealand (it's already Monday morning here even though it's still Sunday at home). I have a major presentation to a customer on Wednesday and then I'll be back home on Thursday.

Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand was on my connecting flight from Auckland. They're an egalitarian bunch the Kiwis. Not only does the PM fly commercial, she flys coach. (Well she has no choice since domestic flights are all single class, but still it's an interesting contrast to the US President and Air Force One).

She had one staffer with her but no real security. I suppose the PM of NZ isn't quite as good at making enemies as the President of the United States.

Friday, March 07, 2008

RIAA to consumers: "If it's good, it's not ours"

From a recent Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) press release:

Watch for Compilations that are “Too Good to Be True": Many pirates make “dream compilation” CDs, comprised of songs by numerous artists on different record labels who would not likely appear on the same legitimate album together.

Don't you just love an organisation whose business model is so predicated on shafting consumers that they can keep a straight face while putting out a press release that effectively says, "We produce crap and try to cram it down your throat. If someone is selling the stuff you actually want then it's definitely not us."

Take me to your 'buy a dozen songs you don't want to get the one you do' overlords.

Historic preservation

One issue that's been on the agenda in Steamboat in recent times with all the development going on is historic preservation.

To the credit of the current City Council they are moving in the direction of a completely voluntary code. That is the only approach that is consistent with a meaningful concept of private property. It's one thing to restrict what I can do with my property if it harms others, it another to restrict my property rights in order to benefit others.

Unfortunately there are still plenty of players in this town who are ready to impose costs on the private owners of historical structures for the "benefit of the community." Here's an idea. If historic preservation is so valuable to "the community" how about they put their money where their mouth is and pay private owners to preserve properties. It always focuses the mind to have to pay for one's high minded ideals doesn't it?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Just a little out of my way

Yesterday we drove to Grand Junction, a four hundred mile (650 km) round trip (see the map below), so that I could be fingerprinted for my citizenship application.

I find several things about this annoying.

First, the appointment process. This consists of sending you a letter with an allocated date and time. No pretence of trying to match their availability with your convenience. If the allocated date and time don't work for you then you can ask for it to be rescheduled. But that just results in them sending you another appointment time to which you've had zero input.

Second and more importantly, why do I need to drive four hundred miles for this in the first place? The fingerprints are submitted for checking to a national database that is used basically by every law enforcement agency in the United States. My local sheriff's office (five mile round trip) has the capability to capture and submit prints in the standard format.

And third, why do I have to be fingerprinted again. I submitted fingerprints to the same agency when applying for my green card. Why not just use those (fingerprints don't age the way faces do)? There are lots of functions within the Department of Homeland Security which are integrated in name only, but these two, Immigration and Naturalisation (now called Citizenship) were part of one organisation (the INS) long before DHS was even a bad idea in some neocon's crazy mind.

Apart from those frustrations, the service was excellent. I expected to arrive to find a situation that would make queuing at the driver licensing office look good but was pleasantly surprised to find that there was not a single other applicant in the office and so I had a total wait time, even though I was early, of zero minutes. In fact in the 15 minutes I was there it was just me. Hard to reconcile this with the reports of enormous backlogs in naturalisation processing and advice from CIS itself that the expected wait time for my interview is somewhere between nine and twelve months.

The very nice woman taking the prints had a hard time though. She's trained to take prints from people who've typically never had their prints taken before, or if they have only once or twice in their life. No I'm not a hardened criminal in the habit of being fingerprinted. It's just that I design biometric systems for a living, and in the process of testing and demonstrating such systems I've probably taken my own prints hundreds of times, so I found it really, really difficult to adjust to having someone else guide my fingers during the capture process.

Fortunately we took the opportunity while in Grand Junction to visit Home Depot. We've been thinking for a while about remodeling our kitchen but the price we got from a local kitchen store was just too much in relation to the value of our condo or what future potential buyers would be willing to pay extra for. Looking at the products available at Home Depot convinced us that we could do it at a price we can live with (about half of the previous estimate). Now we just need to decide if we can live with the disruption.